Dear Mr. Beddoe,
On behalf of the professional journalists in this country, I’d like to apologize for the behaviour that some of my misguided colleagues in the media have displayed lately. I don’t know every detail of the events between WestJet and Air Canada, but the aggressive attack on your character demonstrated both their lack of good judgment and a self-righteousness that was below professional standards. When the power of the pen falls into the hands of fools, I try to wrestle it back.
Journalism courses today teach students to report the facts and only the facts, and thus the context surrounding the facts doesn’t always reach the light of day. Often the true story and the author’s personal judgments remain hidden behind the dry facts they present. This style of “facts-based” journalism sets the writer up with a level of authority and authenticity that isn’t warranted, but few readers actually question it. Reporters are pressured to come up with interesting copy, to cause controversy. They create “filler” on very bland news days, and what gets presented as factual is often merely a disguised opinion.
There is a difference between opinion and good judgment. Opinion can exist without fact, or with very little fact. It can be good or bad, but good judgment requires the facts to be placed in context.
Fact-based reporting should not create a bias one way or the other — but it always does. That is why I believe journalism today needs to focus on telling the full story, with all the facts, or state clearly that it is opinion.
In your case, the reporters decided to extract your statements from the context in which they were made. When I read about you in the Globe and Mail, I realized that the article only presented one side of the story (a hand-picked selection of facts), with very little mention of Air Canada’s role in this whole fiasco.
For example a writer could point out that the biased articles written in The Globe (Oct. 3, 2006) were published on the same day that Air Canada had a front page advertisement with them. They might also point out that Air Canada has been advertising quite heavily in The Globe ever since. But that would not be responsible journalism. There is no evidence that The Globe is supporting Air Canada with their editorial, just a bunch of facts that could just as easily be mere coincidence. Thus this is an assumption based on facts taken out of context. It isn’t the truth, it isn’t the full story and it certainly shouldn’t be made into an article.
The sort of reporters that dragged you through the mud are what I call “witch hunters.” They want to stand out, they want to be recognized, and they preach from very high pulpits. You were tried, sentenced, and burned and I am truly sorry you had to go through that.
One of the mandates we have at the Women’s Post is to be honest. To write what we believe and why we believe it. The columnists give their judgments without hiding them behind a creative manipulation of the facts. My judgement may not be right, but by stating what I think is right I may indeed come closer to the truth than anyone. I ran for city-council once, a long time ago, and experienced the same sort of mud-slinging that you have just experienced. One of the reasons I started the Women’s Post was to keep the dailies honest. Let’s hope this helps.
After meeting you a few years ago, I came away with the belief that you were a hard-working gentleman with a company that would go places. If I hadn’t invested every penny I have into this newspaper I would have placed my bets on WestJet. And over the years you have done it. You’ve taken on Canada’s national airline, built a company from one plane to a company that now employs close to 5000 people. That takes guts, it takes brains, determination and a lot of hard work — all the qualities required for the leader of a successful business. You have demonstrated that you stand behind your company and take responsibility for all your actions. I, for one, tip my hat to you.